As our risk from skin cancer increases with age, it is crucial that we examine our skin regularly and to notice changes early. Be aware of the shapes and coloring of any freckles and moles you have. Skin cancer often develops from an existing lesion, causing its appearance to change. 35

Who is susceptible?

The most common risk factor for development of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. 35

There are many risk factors for developing non-melanoma skin cancers including: 35

  • fair complexion
  • personal history of atypical moles
  • history of skin cancers, family history of skin cancers
  • smoking tobacco
  • immunosuppression from medications and HIV
  • chronic non-healing wounds and previous burns
  • genetic syndromes

How do you spot non-melanoma skin cancers?

Most non-melanoma skin cancers will be diagnosed on areas of the body with excess exposure to the sun. 19, 20, 21,35

Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. 36

As a general rule, to spot either melanomas or non-melanoma skin cancers, take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also alarm signals.  36

It is so vital to catch melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, you need to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a doctor immediately. 36


Consult your doctor if you have a mole with the following characteristics: 36, 37

A – Check for asymmetry and establish if one side of your mole is not the same as the other

B  –  Establish whether the mole has an irregular border  such as it having ragged or blurred edges

C – The colour of your mole may have different colour tones

D – The size of the mole may be bigger than the size of a pencil eraser and the mole may be raised above the skin and feel uneven to the touch

E – There is an evolution or change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.

The mole might also bleed and crust. 38

According  to the Irish Cancer Society ( ) skin cancers do not all look the same, and can appear as the following: 38

  • A small lump
  • Flat, red spot
  • Firm, red lump
  • A lump or spot that is tender to touch
  • An ulcer that will not heal
  • A lump with a scaly or horny top
  • Rough, scaly patches

See your family doctor if you are worried about any of these signs or symptoms. He or she can examine your skin carefully. 36